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Home Buying 101

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Ask the Expert: How Can Staging Pave the Way for a Better Sell?

Today’s Ask the Expert column features Patty McNease, director of Marketing for Homes.com.

Q: How can staging pave the way for a better sell?

A: Staging allows your clients to show off the unique features of their home that buyers can come to love. During the holiday season, staging can make a home stand out even more. The following staging tips will help buyers fall in love with their future home just in time for the holidays.

Is staging really necessary?
Many homeowners are concerned about the overall cost to sell their homes. One place they may look to cut expenses is staging. While some think it’s unnecessary, proper staging is crucial to selling a home since it allows buyers to imagine what living there could look like. In fact, according to a recent National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey, 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as their future home, which decreased the amount of time it was on the market.

Which rooms are the most important to stage?
According to the same NAR survey, the living room, master bedroom and kitchen are most critical. This is likely because these are the spaces where future owners will be spending most of their time. When planning these rooms, space and functionality are important. Rooms that are cluttered or difficult to navigate will not appeal to potential buyers.

How should I stage a home around the holidays?
Keep in mind that buying a home is an emotional experience for both the buyer and the seller. Often, the buyer’s emotional connection to the home is what really solidifies the sale. The holidays are a sentimental time for many, as they bring back warm memories and allow younger buyers to imagine future celebrations. Enhance these emotional connections to draw buyers to make an emotional investment in the home.

That being said, it’s important not to go overboard. Since different types of potential buyers will be coming to visit, avoid including overly religious décor. Instead, opt for simple and classic. Also, consider burning a pine- or cranberry-scented candle for those buyers who come over for a tour.

My client is hesitant. How can I convince them to stage their home?
If your client is against staging, remind them that 86 percent of buyers believe viewing a property online is the most useful part of their home search. With so many different options, it’s important to capture their attention in this initial stage of viewing so that they want to see the home in person. If you’re still struggling, show your client a before and after photo from another property you’ve staged, and ask them which home they would rather see.

For more information, please visit www.homes.com.

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How Much Do You Know About Your Credit Score?

While your credit score affects everything from your ability to buy a car or a home to how much interest you will pay on the loan, many people don’t know how these scores are calculated or what impacts them positively or negatively.

Moreover, says the Credit Federation of America (CFA), more than 25 percent of respondents in a recent survey did not know that a low credit score could increase the cost of a car loan by $5,000. More than half didn’t realize that utility companies, cellphone companies, and even insurers sometimes check credit scores before issuing services—or that multiple inquiries in a short time, as when you are shopping for a loan, are treated as one inquiry in order to minimize the impact on your score.

The CFA provides more about credit scores that every consumer should know:

All your credit scores are not the same. Most people assume their credit score is a single three-digit number, but each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) scores you differently, since they don’t necessarily have the exact same data in their files.

Closing old accounts will not necessarily boost your scores. Closing old or inactive accounts may inadvertently lower your credit score because now your credit history appears shorter. If you want to simplify, close newer credit accounts first, or put the cards away so you don’t use them, but your credit history stays intact.

Paying off a bad debt will not erase it from your score. Once a debt goes to collection, or you’ve established a history of late payments, you will deal with the consequences even if you pay off what you owe. It will show as paid, but it is not erased. Also, while your score will get a boost if you pay off an old debt, it may not be by as much as you think. The best way to increase your scores and keep them high is to make payments on time every month over the long haul.

Co-signing for a loan impacts your scores. When you co-sign for someone else’s loan, you are responsible for the debt—and if the person your co-signed for does not pay, your credit score will be impacted.

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4 Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

(TNS)—If you can afford it, it might be simple to pay off your mortgage earlier. But should you? That’s a complicated question.

Homeowners with low mortgage rates may be better off putting extra money in a Roth IRA or 401(k), both of which might offer a higher return than paying off the mortgage.

Then there’s the college aid factor. If you’re applying for need-based aid for your kids, that home equity could count against you with some colleges because some institutions view equity as money in the bank.

If, after those caveats, you want to pay off your mortgage early, here are four ways to make it happen.

  1. Refinance with a shorter-term mortgage.
    You can pay off the mortgage in another 15 years by refinancing into a 15-year mortgage.

Let’s say you got a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $200,000 at 4.5 percent. Then, five years later, you can refinance into a 15-year loan at 4 percent. Doing so pays off the mortgage 10 years earlier and saves more than $60,000 (if you exclude closing costs on the refi).

Those shorter-term mortgages often carry interest rates a quarter of a percentage point to three-quarters of a percentage point lower than their 30-year counterparts.

Refinancing isn’t quick or free. It requires filling out the application, providing documentation and having an appraiser visit. There are closing costs.

And even with a lower interest rate, that quicker payoff means higher monthly payments. And this method is a lot less flexible. If you decide that you don’t have the extra money one month to put toward the mortgage, you’re locked in anyway.

Unless the new interest rate is lower than the old rate, there’s no point in refinancing. Without a lower rate, you’ll get all the same benefits (and none of the extra costs) by just increasing your payment a sufficient amount.

  1. Pay a little more each month.
    Divide your monthly principal and interest by 12 and add that amount to your monthly payment for a year. Result: You make the equivalent of 13 payments in 12 months.

Let’s say you got a $200,000 mortgage at 4.5 percent. After five years of making the minimum payments, you add an extra 1/12 of a month’s principal and interest to each monthly payment. Doing so pays off the mortgage three years and three months earlier and saves more than $18,000 interest.

Before you make anything beyond the regular payment, call your mortgage servicer and find out exactly what you need to do so that your extra payments will be correctly applied to your loan.

Let them know you want to pay “more aggressively” and ask the best ways to do that.

Some servicers may require a note with the extra money or directions on the notation line of the check.

In any event, if you’re putting extra money toward your loan, always check the next statement to make sure it’s been properly applied.

  1. Make an extra mortgage payment every year.
    Instead of paying a little more each month, make one extra monthly payment each year. One way to do this is to save 1/12 of a payment every month, and then make an extra payment after every 12 months. This gives you the flexibility to use the extra savings for something else if a more pressing expense arises.

Let’s say you do this starting the first month after getting a 30-year mortgage for $200,000 at 4.5 percent. That would save more than $27,000 interest, and you would pay off the mortgage four years and three months earlier.

  1. Throw ‘found’ money at the mortgage.
    Get a bonus? A tax refund? An unexpected windfall? However it ends up in your hands, you can funnel some or all of your newfound money toward your mortgage.

Let’s say you got a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for $200,000 at 4.5 percent. Then, five years later, you can make an extra $10,000 lump-sum payment. Doing so pays off the mortgage two years and four months earlier, and saves more than $19,000 in interest.

The upside: You’re paying extra only when you’re flush. And those additional payments toward the principal will cut the total interest on your loan.

The downside: It’s irregular, so it’s hard to predict the mortgage payoff date. If you throw too much at the mortgage, you won’t have money for other needs.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 4 Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early appeared first on RISMedia.

We appreciate your business and your time.

Please contact us, if you are in the market for Missouri River homes, city houses, recreational acreage, log cabins, Holter Lake homes, ranches, farms, luxury homes, investment property, buildable land, any real estate you want to buy in Montana. Enjoy the site.